Posts Tagged ‘disorder’

Communism AND Capitalism

June 22, 2017

The problem is that, usually, communism and capitalism are considered in purely abstract terms. Thus communism is supposed to be a state-free, large scale organization, which is organised around anarcho-democratic principles. Everyone is supposed to have the same rights, and is automatically allocated food, housing etc and helps produce everything for everyone else. The ideal is co-operative. Capitalism is supposed to allocate resources perfectly through the purely unintended economic consequences of selfishness. It can ideally have a state or not have a state depending on who you read. Supposedly ‘free markets’ are vital and bring liberty.

The problem is that though the defenders of each system are well-intentioned, neither works as perfectly as predicted, or has the consequences which are expected. This is quite obvious when you considered how they are formed and that humans are as co-operative as they are selfish and competitive. We are not one or the other. Consequently those who are successful in capitalism co-operate to prevent challenge to their power over the markets and other’s lives, and some people compete in communism to establish their own power and security at the cost of others. Furthermore, freedom is usually associated with plurality of organisations, but both systems tend to crush plurality in favour of their ideal.

The ideal societies, that people usually discuss, do not exist and probably cannot exist.

What we call ‘communism’, so far, has been born in revolution. Consequently there are always active players inside, and outside, the country aiming to get what they consider their rightful power and wealth back. Consequently communists have to use the State and repression to defend themselves, the new society and produce stability for transformation into the new society. They usually end up using the old apparatus which is the one they know, and is already in place. They justify this in terms of transition; its always supposedly temporary. Of course, some people succeed in this framework and gain power and privilege and don’t particularly care about the ordinary people who can be seen as obstacles to the progress of the State and its ideals. Mao appears to have tried to appeal directly to the people to destroy the State mechanisms and the ingrained bureaucrats. This was a dangerous policy it produced the cultural revolution, which was not a great time (to put it very mildly) and the State came back to produce stability and protect those in power. It is also relatively easy for a dictator to take over when you have a strong State, no other organisations which can challenge it, and an external threat.

The problem with capitalism is that it is born in theft and in impoverishment of some people, and leaves them behind to maintain that theft. In the US we have theft of native American lands, and theft of people’s lives in slavery, amongst other things, that create the basis of private property and its inequitable distribution – the stolen wealth does not go entirely to the victorious group. Wealthy people team up to keep the wealth for themselves, and to keep it coming and soon try to take over the State, or start a State, and use that State to defend their privilege and keep ordinary people in their place. They use the State and their own economic power to destroy open non-capitalist markets which could challenge them. The processes they implement consolidate property and shift people into wage labor and dependency. The more important the leaders of business become, the more everything has to be organized as a business, and anything that is not profitable business is automatically classed as not worthwhile. Similarly, everything that adds to business cost, like wages or looking after the ecology we depend upon, is to be destroyed or run down. There are many other problems with capitalism, but the main one is that it ends up being a self-destructive plutocracy – and the more capitalist it becomes, the more this eventuates.

After the second world war, many countries embraced what they called either a ‘mixed economy’ or ‘socialism’ (communists usually insist this is not ‘real socialism’). There were state funded business ventures and private funded ventures. They both kept each other in check. Business could not lower wages too much and accumulated too much profit, and State business had to look to what people wanted to buy. The State and big business were further kept in check by the people and by other flourishing organisations such as Churches, small business associations, unions, universities, legal bodies, the judiciary, returned services organisations, science bodies and so on (I’m sure other people can think of more such organisations which organized themselves in many different ways). This spread power about, so no one faction dominated and people generally prospered. There was a large and growing involvement with ‘people power’. To some extent this arose because some capitalists feared the possibility of communist revolution and thought it better to share some of the wealth they had extracted from the community around to keep them safe.

However, in the mid seventies, in the English speaking world in particular, the corporate sector launched a take over, through funding think tanks, media takeovers, takeover of political units, and general promotion of ideal capitalism. Then European communism fell. There was no longer any fear of revolution, and little opposition to capitalism. The result was what we have now. Capitalism as it is….. Capitalism was to be the only solution, the only value and ordinary people lost power and prosperity. Any other organisations where to be organized along business lines and started praising business. As a result, there is now almost no challenge to big business from anyone and no non-business stories, especially as communism collapsed under its incapacities.

There is close to no question that capitalism will collapse under its incapacities as well – there is nothing challenging it. The issue is whether it takes us all with it.


June 19, 2017

Alchemy was an art of all kinds of transmutation and ‘perfection’: of metals, human bodies, souls, agriculture, pottery, politics and so on.

Those alchemists working on metals, usually attempted to transform Mercury, rather than lead, into gold. The lead is a popular story and I’m not sure when it originated. However, the mercury may not be what we call mercury, it is the ‘Mercury of the Philosophers’ which is something completely different but like mercury…. alchemy is confusing in that way.

As many people are aware, Isaac Newton was an alchemist and spent far more effort on alchemy and biblical interpretation than on physics which was simply a sideline. Some have argued that alchemy was important in supporting Newton with the otherwise unpopular idea of action at a distance. Robert Boyle and lots of other members of the original Royal Society were also alchemists, although Newton was the most traditional of all of them and incredibly secretive about what he was doing – as he was with everything. The others tended to exchange notes and procedures.

I have read of people using nuclear reactors to do transmutation of the elements but ,as everyone notes, that is way too expensive at the moment – although it can be taken as demonstrating that alchemy is possible 🙂

There are alchemists operating today doing the work on metals, although they seem to be more interested in medical alchemy than gold making. There are also those who see alchemy as more of a psychological or spiritual procedure.

This psychologizing has a surprisingly long history but, while it simplifies, it basically arises because alchemists generally did not see a difference between interior work and exterior work. Everything was connected, the change in the alchemist was as important as the change in the material, and the two were linked. Everything was mutable. Psychologising also serves the function of explaining why any particular alchemist did not make the transmutation, and further explained and justified the altered states of consciousness that arise through inhaling and tasting various substances and concentrating on being a human thermostat for weeks on end. It may also be true of course 🙂

However, separating the spirit work into its own domain becomes more usual during and after the 17th century. By the late 19th century it was often considered that work on the spirit was the secret of alchemy, probably because it became increasingly difficult to see spirit and matter as related.

More interestingly, Carl Jung argued that Western alchemical symbols arose as a kind of collective dream, acting as compensations for the kind of psyche produced by official Christianity. If that is the case, then alchemy can, even today, act as a map of psychological transformation – what he called individuation. James Hillman expanded on this, pointing out that alchemical symbols actually give us a very concrete embodied way of seeing, feeling and engaging with psyche.

I personally think that alchemical symbols can give us a way of thinking about transformations of all kinds, and that they are particularly useful for thinking about chaotic, complex and messy processes. But that is a subject for another blog post sometime.


April 8, 2017

I’ve been in Queensland and have just finished reading the last week of the Murdoch owned Courier mail – which may well be the only local daily newspaper for the whole state. Lots of stuff on the massive cyclone, the devastation and the spirit of Queenslanders.

Hardly any mention of climate change. Except to denounce the Greens for exploiting the tragedy for political gain and for dissing Queenslanders, and quoting Bill Shorten, leader of the Labor party, agreeing that the Greens were indeed terrible. So much for the ‘obstructionism’ of the mainstream left.

However, there was Lots and Lots of stuff about how wonderful the Adani mine is going to be for jobs and development, and suggesting that any opposition is from privileged city folk and racists…. They also spent many column inches denouncing a small Melbourne Council who was going to remove its funds from Westpac, because that bank was funding the Adani mine. Most of the denouncing focused on how small this council was. Yes even what they perceive as the smallest dissent, really upsets the Righteous.

They did cheer for the Queensland Labor government allocating Adani unlimited water access and use, at the cost of farmers and rivers all the way down to South Australia. Only recently 87% of Queensland was declared drought affected, but that must not stand in the way of…. whatever this mine is doing. Some Federal Minister said if this mine can’t go ahead then no mines anywhere in Australia will be successful. There is nobody living out there…. News to the local aboriginal people I would suspect and, as usual, devoid of any sense that local events can produce wide range catastrophe. Coal mining does produce poisons and threaten the common water table for the whole state. Coal is burnt and the atmosphere is shared, whatever he might want to the contrary.

There is a kind of total weirdness going on here. A real threat to ‘colonial civilisation’ in Australia is being deliberately shunted to one side, in favour of extremely dubious short term benefits, which will probably not be delivered.

We sell our coal, and get nothing for it, except a dead barrier reef, dispossessed locals, poisoned water, and less than 2,000 jobs. Royalties and taxes will be unlikely to be paid to cover the costs or even repay the loans from the government – Adani’s tax arrangements are legendarily complex. The profit does not even go to a local company, or even a reputable company. We do not help relieve poverty in India, because there is no grid in the poor areas (people cannot afford it).

There seems to be a madness infesting the right, a possession by an ideological machine, which blinds, deafens, numbs and rips out the smell centres of its possessed, and clatters on without any direction other than destruction. Nothing must stop it. It chants away that resistance is useless.

It would be nice to think not, but what is the alternative?

Diagnosing Trump

March 19, 2017

Another Vital Post from John Woodcock. This time on the pointlessness of diagnosing Trump. Basically John’s argument is that diagnosing Trump “generate[s] a sense of knowing who Trump is and what he is likely to do on the basis of his ‘clinical profile’. This sense of knowing who Trump is, psychologically or clinically, thus gives us a dangerously false sense of getting a handle on what is going on right now.”

Diagnosis is therefore dangerous. We need to see with “fresh eyes”

So some continuation of this idea.

The circumstances of the world are unique and are not reflected in past history. We cannot predict the consequences of events, or actions, at all. It is also true that the world is a set of complex systems and is inherently unpredictable.

What makes the situation different, is that we have never faced this confluence of crises. They are crises which provoke existential crisis in us, and may possibly end ways of life as we know them quite catastrophically. We, as humanity, face being completely uprooted.

Despite the impossibility of predicting exactly what will happen, there is always the possibility of predicting trends. Trump is, I think, ‘trendable’. However, it must be remembered that Trump is not alone he has a whole group of people reinforcing his tendencies, supporting his acts, fearing him, and feeding him the “right” information. That is what makes him particularly dangerous

So far I’ve found Trump and his collective relatively predictable going by his past history, but the intersection of that past history with current events is hard to fathom, and will possibly get harder to fathom as it goes along. Of course Trump and others may become more monstrous as he proceeds and fails.

Trump supports established big business and attacks ordinary Americans. He aims to remove anything that hinders the power of business to destroy, or increase the wealth they remove from the system. He supports anything that will increase his own wealth, and seems happy to make money out of the Presidency (as with Mar-a-lago). His is a government of billionaire crooks for billionaire crooks. .

He also wants to be seen as tough and a ‘strong man’. He wants his own way in everything public. This is vital, and feeds into the billionaire thug routine. He resents those who think they know better than him, or say he cannot do something. He will seek scapegoats for his failures and seek revenge on those scapegoats.

He will probably start a war, or series of wars, as his policies break down, so as to maintain the illusion of strength. It is no surprise he makes increasing military spending (which also transfers taxpayers’ money to the corporate sector) a priority, despite the fact that the US already spends more on the military than the ten to twelve next highest spending countries put together. Nuclear war is a possibility – he has already suggested it to solve the problems of the Middle East. Who it is, that he will declare war upon is much harder to decide.

He will do nothing to stop ecological breakdown, indeed he will be more likely to speed it up as that shows his power and marks the Earth permanently with his name.

Trump and his cronies (it is not Trump alone) push us further into the crisis, and it is up to us to resist while knowing our resistance will encourage him to go further.

That is the first paradox.

We need “fresh eyes” to see this.

There is another paradox. Trump is not a reforming radical as he, and his supporters claim, he is the same old Republican fraud. However, he does not have the same constraints of past Republicans.

So we cannot hold the possibilities within constraints. The crises ridden system would probably not allow this anyway. We cannot rely on our past assumptions about US governments. We might have been able to assume that while Reagan would risk nuclear war, his government would behave “reasonably” in other ways. With Trump’s government we have no assurances.

We need fresh eyes to see, that do not block our perceptions of trends in ‘heroic’ specialness, and do not suppress paradox.

Paranoia Time?

February 5, 2017

Will Republicans, as a political movement, object to Trump behaving unethically, or riding roughshod over the traditions they value?


Mr Trump, is doing exactly what the Republicans have said they wanted to do for years. This is not a threat to them. His first moves seem aimed at making it safe for corporations to pollute, poison and take over people’s land and property without any constraint if they think it is profitable.

The Share Market is booming, the insurance market for investment is slumping (or so I read) which means investment houses think he is doing well for them. Warren Buffett has bought US$12 billion in stocks since the election. He clearly does not expect surprises. The financial elites seem relatively happy, and now we hear that the rules put in place to help stabilise the financial markets are to be removed, so we can look forward to another bubble and crash, but plenty of profit for finance, and probably taxpayers money to help them out when the crash comes.

Religious people love the end of abortion and the conservative legal and judge appointments.

Fossil fuel companies are cheering the rebirth of oil and potentially coal, and the removal of regulation that might hinder them poisoning people, wrecking the environment or risking profit.

He is pleasing the important people in his electorate. and he is removing those who might hinder him.

The Elites will probably get a war in a few months to a year, which means it that it will become unpatriotic to criticize him.

Its all going to plan.

For about the last 20 years the Republican elites seem to have been gearing up for a total war against ‘liberals’ who they see as oppressing them.

Online comments make this easy to see. it takes not time at all to find someone declaring that they will cheer when Trump destroys all you liberal scum.

In total war there is no ideal of fair play or proper procedure, hence they have no objection to the arbitrary way Trump behaves. [Do you really believe they would not object if Clinton had behaved remotely similarly?] You ally with your enemies enemy (in this case Putin), and if you win that proves you were right to do so. You can lie without scruple, disinformation is part of warfare, and you use any method at all to win. Life is at stake.

They will not be satisfied until the last liberal is whimpering or dead.

America does not have a democracy, it has an elected king. Previous presidents don’t seem to have realized this.

We think with metaphor, myth and analogy

December 2, 2016

This post is largely an elaboration of a response to an important post by John Woodcock on metaphors and thinking or being – John’s post is probably better.

John reminds us that we think and feel with analogy, myth, metaphor and feeling.

Some of that feeling will arise because of our patterns of thinking, and of interpreting what happens in the world, but some will arise because of unconscious processes. Indeed we could suggest that the processes of thinking themselves are largely unconscious, because the forms or patterns that guide that thought, or that the thought and feeling takes in manifesting, are not conscious. Thoughts and feelings are likewise not separable – thoughts generate feelings, and the feeling reinforces the thought, or the type of thought likely to come next. (For example, if you are angry, you are thinking thoughts that make you angry, and that anger then limits the range of thoughts likely to arise for you).

As a result, we often let our symbols (and their patterns and dynamics) do our thinking for us, and that is a problem for both political and personal life. Once the metaphor is announced a particular result becomes probable – and the more it is used, the more that result is reinforced, or becomes a settled pathway. I suspect that the experts on propaganda know this well, and that this cultivation of metaphors (this art of metaphors) has been part of the activity around Trump.

Trump’s talk appears to have been powerful and resonated with, or raised anger present in, his audiences, but it could mean whatever you wanted it to mean. If you did not trust Clinton because of the 30 year smear campaign and the feeling/sense that something must be wrong about her (even if you could not point to anything real), then you could select what you wanted to hear from Trump’s metaphors, or take what could have been literal as ‘only metaphor’. And his metaphors tended to be repeated to reinforce them.

His phrase ‘drain the swamp’ (exampled by John) sounds good because it says he is going to remove the icky, sticky stuff that you can get lost and die in. Its a visceral image involving bringing light into darkness and solidity from squelch. It implies a simple set of dichotomies: swamp/non swamp; bad/good; action/stuckness. Who can resist this? Who will say this is bad?

Some kind of awareness of analogy helps, us to navigate our way here.

Extracting ourselves from auto-thinking and feeling takes effort and rebellion against the norm. It takes awareness of the analogies we are using, their connotations and our automatic responses to begin with, as well as the knowledge that our thinking is not always voluntary or right, and that our feelings are not always accurate or real. We are potentially partially conscious creatures, not automatically fully conscious – we can be misled and wrong (even in our sense of being misled). Becoming conscious, might be tedious.

This is a place in which depth psychology and science can possibly help, by setting up exploration, experiment and reality testing.

Trump’s usage is definitely not depth psychological (there is no sense the darkness and stickiness is something to be faced, possibly explored and projections removed) and it is not ecological (swamps can host whole families of creatures, and store and purify water, they can protect. They are places of bounty as well as danger). Outside of these psychological or scientific frameworks, the metaphor does its thinking for you, and that is the natural way. It is a metaphor encouraging avoidance, which sums up fear, and puts virtue with the cleansing group.

Given the election is over, it will be interesting to see how the so called “alt.right” defend the president elect’s apparent attempts to fill the swamp with far worse, but openly visible, creatures who are completely beholden to the corporate elite, and who do not mind poisoning workers in the name of profit. I presume the swamp will now become portrayed as a field of light, clarity and genius (perhaps even ‘spirit’) – because light dazzles the critical faculties. Perhaps they will simply continue to attack everything else, because the good/evil dichotomy seems so real, that if the others are bad, then they must be the light.

Perhaps, disillusionment will settle in, but I doubt it for one prime reason. People on the right in general, tend to cultivate a perception of themselves as living in a world in which they have no say, and are oppressed. They think the media is leftist, they think Marxists rule academia and education, they think gay people and Jews run the entertainment industry as propaganda, they think all scientists are communist conspirators, they think unions control and hobble business. Judging by some of the remarks I’ve heard recently, some think that Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, George H and W, Bush etc. were raving socialists, who actively suppressed free enterprise and right wing dissent. In this view, any information which can be branded as official is probably a lie, unless it agrees with this fundamental truth that they are the victims of the evil left. So we can assume that the loving alliance of Trump with parts of the corporate sector will not be recognised, for who will report it but the evil left?

Trump’s apparent lack of control in his expression also promised that he would allow the expression people thought was being suppressed.

While non of this may seem real to those of us who identify as being on the Left, it is the starting point for much of the Right. They see themselves being oppressed, hence the anger. In their own minds they are heroic, fighting the triumphant forces of darkness against amazing odds. This of course may be the position that others wish to assume, by assuming *all* people who vote for this right are deliberate racists or nazis or whatever. It is a monotheistic position that blames the world for evil, and feels right. All of us may feel the forces of darkness are triumphing and that we fight against them. We seek scapegoats to blame and expel for whatever we perceive is going wrong, and as long as this benefits those in power (by identifying some group that is relatively powerless), then this will probably be encouraged.

If we do understand this position and its appeal to all of us, then maybe we can start trying to free ourselves. First of all by observing our own metaphors and patterns and their consequences and testing them out, finding pain, and perhaps eliminating our own binaries, or bringing them into open confrontation within. And then attempting to communicate, not by appealing to reality or attempting to refute the other’s delusion, but by entering into the fantasy and undermining its binary nature. We all feel repressed.

But again, this suggests going out into the field (which may seem a swamp) and doing some exploratory work ourselves.

Individual vs Collective?

November 28, 2016

I am noticing that there seems to be a gentle stream of ‘retreatism’ in some modes of depth psychology. The idea seems to be that the ‘crowd’ is bad, that social life is somehow corrupting and, that faced with the world situation, and the Anthropocene in particular we have to move into our own, somehow special individuation.

To me this is a partial truth, and needs expansion. It may also be true that in specific times of life (when aging, or facing immanent death, or in the midst of illness), this may be the best thing for some of us to do. I just don’t think it is a good strategy for a general approach to deal with ecological crisis or political instability. That we recognise that humans affect the world, does not mean we can correct the effects by ‘going away’. All life forms affect the world. At the moment humans are perhaps affecting it disproportionately (this is what the idea of the Anthropocene recognizes), and we may not be able to afford retreat from that recognition.

This mode of retreat seems to be based a non-ecological mode of thinking, and in a situation of, shall we say, degrading relationships, it seems to imply that individuals are disconnected, self tending units, and could lead to further degradation.

At the biological level we are colonies, or interactive ‘systems’, of multiple creatures. Much of our body weight, when we subtract the water, contains ‘foreign’ DNA. Even our cells may depend on what were originally external organisms (mitochondria have their own DNA). We are not a single biological being: we are symbiotes.

At the psychological level, depth psychology appears to uncover that we have multiple psyches, and layers of psyche: ‘complexes’, personal unconsciousness, collective unconsciousness, archetypes, or whatever. If you are more into neurology for your evidence, then we have, at least, a hind brain, a mid brain and two hemispheres, all of which may function independently, and communicate with difficulty. Other researchers add neurological centres in the heart and the solar plexus. We are psychologically multiple interactive systems. We are not so much engaged in dialogues, but in ‘multi-logues’.

We are also social creatures. We think with borrowed, badly copied or modified thoughts. We feel with borrowed, emulated and modified feelings and desires. We think with others and in reaction to others. Without singular amounts of effort we cannot live alone, and when young we cannot live alone at all. We are interdependent with others as interactive systems. The boundaries are fuzzy, we blend into each other and are interpenetrated by each other. The same is true of our ecology, we modify it, it modifies us, and that is happening between billions of creatures simultaneously. It again is a set of interactive systems: that is the nature of being.

We are both collaborative and competitive, and are so at many levels, individually, group, nationally etc… Sometimes what we think is working-together is working-against-each-other.

Consequently, the individual and the collective do not seem to me to be separate, or even opposing, poles. Certainly, not in the sense that one is enlightened and that the other is ignorant. They work together, and against each other, always. We are always in multi-logues. The question is how to work together as productively as possible. What follows are some suggestions.

First point, which should contain no problems for depth psychologists, seems to me to recognise that we are massively unconscious. We do not perceive most of this working together or against each other; we cannot perceive all of it; we probably cannot understand all of it; and we cannot predict the consequences of it in detail – this is true of both our inner and outer lives (and these lives are not separate; the boundaries are continually fuzzy and porous).

Second point may be that given this unconsciousness, unpredictability and porous boundaries, full retreat is impossible – we are always in the systems whether we like it or not. What is needed is a set of day to day techniques to deal with events we are unconscious of. We may need to fully engage with our senses, fully engage with our symbolic capacities, fully engage with our ability to listen in the widest sense.

Third point. Because we cannot fully understand, we may need to suspend our sense that we do understand. We all think we understand. Often understanding involves blame, condemnation and scapegoating, which are processes which almost automatically stop our ability to listen and understand. (We may even condemn ‘thinking’, or ‘lack of spirituality’, or ‘spirituality’ itself, when humans automatically appear to think or have some spiritual orientation towards the cosmos.) That is one reason why these techniques are so popular; they fill the gaps, stop us being puzzled and preserve our egos and their understandings. So it could be useful if we recognise that whatever we think is right, could be wrong, no matter how right it seems.

Fourth point. Premature and enforced understanding, automatically produces unintended consequences. It is the order that produces the disorder it fears. It makes things worse. It stops us listening to the world, it stops correction by reality. It nearly always produces action and may sometimes be necessary.

Fifth point. We need to correct our understanding. We do this not just in retreat, although retreat is valuable – everything needs rest – but we do it in interaction with the world. It is only interaction that can give correction or show us the consequences of that understanding (if we look/listen).

Sixth point. While our ego (consciousness) tends to seek repetition and fixed understanding, we can remember that we have multiple and unconscious modes of understanding and wisdom which may see things differently; that may add to our conscious understanding, even if our ego resists. Bad feelings can tell us that we are thinking ‘badly’ or incorrectly. Dreams can give us symbolic representations of reality which include events that our consciousness may not want to admit. The same is true of art and story. A sense of unease can be informative (perhaps it is our heart thinking?). If we really hold to the understanding that things/events/people/ecologies are interconnected and boundaries are fuzzy, and that our orders may not always be good, then maybe we can perceive more ‘data’ to help improve our understanding. All of these messages and data need evaluation through interaction with reality, but they can potentially add to understanding. We all have ‘inner wisdom’, but it is not just found in retreat, it is also found in an attentive and open daily life.

Seventh point. Response to crisis should probably be an oscillatory process. We go ‘inside’ to our hidden wisdoms, we go ‘outside’ to the interacting or multi-loguing world, we go ‘inside’ again and come out, and so on. If we remain isolated or unthinking individuals then it is possible we will be worse than ignored, we will lose some of our internal power and meaning as it does not go into the world, we will become complicit in that loss. If the reader is familiar with depth psychology and its metaphors, then they will be aware that in alchemy, the practitioner does not simply engage in ‘spiritual’ or ‘inner’ work, they do that work in conjunction with work in the laboratory. They take their insights from the inner work into the lab, and the lab work into their inner lives. Sometimes the two progress simultaneously. In alchemy, there is no enforced separation between ‘mind’, ‘spirit’ and ‘body’, or between ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ they are aspects of each other, and this may be a useful approach.

Clearly, then, I am not protesting against doing inner work, but saying that inner work is part of outer work, it is not separate. I am also not remotely against the idea of multi-logue, but admit it can be difficult and upsetting to our egos, and this can be good.

However, I am suggesting that when we recognise that oppression or destruction is likely to come, or is coming, then people may need to formally join together to protect themselves and protect others.

The more understanding we have gained from participation and challenge, then the less likely that this joining will be violent, condemnatory or exclusionary; the more likely we will be responding to reality rather than to our limited understandings of reality.

Corporate society and the Toynbee Cycle

November 24, 2016

[this is an elaboration of some of my comments on the previous article on the Age of the Anthropocene blog]

When I was arguing that Trump may well seek to ‘over-rule’ apparent economic realities and help produce climate disaster, I was guided by a theory which I call the ‘Toynbee Cycle’ after the historian Arnold Toynbee. The basic proposition is that Civilisations or societies, if they are to succeed and survive, adapt to their environment which includes ecology and other societies. Societies always face challenges which the society either overcomes, adapts to, or fails.

A failure can be a learning experience and produce better adaptation later on. This learning often involves a change in the people in power and/or the ideologies they embrace.

However, sometimes these challenges arise out of the very factors that have helped to generate the societies success.

A common example could be an extreme military proficiency that has expanded until the point where the costs, financial and social, of maintaining that success and dominance depletes the society of resources and the capacity to respond to challenges; in particular the capacity to respond to new non-military kinds of challenges. Similarly, problems arise when a group of people has been able to commandeer the cosmologies, economics, technologies etc. of a society and they restrict membership and do not allow newcomers. Such a group is likely to resist innovation and change, even if it kills them, because they have no competence or experience in such. Letting in new classes/groups of people, provided they appear talented or qualified is always a good strategy to get new ideas. Restricting entry to kin and existing group members is usually harmful. [for those who like this kind of thing, this latter point comes from Pareto’s cycle of elites]

Toynbee’s oft repeated point is that previously successful societies, do not fail so much as commit suicide. This suicide is usually promoted by the dominant groups not wanting to risk loss of dominance, or not being able to see the world in terms other than those of the tools (conceptual and technological) they use.

In my terms, the order the rulers seek creates the very disorder they fear. Reality does not work the way they want it to, or they demand that it does.

The standard ways of dealing with challenges, which seem likely to ensure social collapse, are:

To try and impose the required order more rigorously.
To pretend that the signs of disorder are illusionary.
To pretend to be solving the problem, usually with a knowing wink.
To attack those who might be trying to solve the problems.
To stir up a distraction and get people’s attention focused elsewhere, or
To locate a scapegoat to blame for the problems and argue everything will be well when that scapegoat is purged.

We largely seem to have a corporately dominated society; its cosmologies, forms of organisation and economic power seem to be embraced everywhere. It has relatively tight control, and factions of our current society, which support that order, appear to be dedicated to all of the techniques named above:

The economy is not working – so let us have more ‘free markets’, more power to the corporate sector, more wealth for the wealthy. Trump has promised to encourage more fossil fuels as they have worked in the past, and are (incidentally)generated by wealthy people and organisations.

People pretend that the climate change generated by society’s economy and success is not a problem, is not happening, is some kind of conspiracy, or is beyond human remediation.

Many government seem to want to embrace a ‘solution’ to climate change which supports coal burning. Not just new mines, but ‘clean coal’ and fracking for cheap ‘clean’ gas despite the leaks.

Groups attack and smear scientists, greens and anti-coal protestors who recognise some of the problems.

Official media, tends to distract us by focusing on the lives of celebrities, on murders, imaginary worlds and so on.

Groups can actively blame refugees, illegal immigrants, and ‘liberals/greenies’ for everything.

All of these are attempts to keep the disordering order functional, and remove challenges to it, and challenges to the behaviour of its supporters from consideration

This kind of situation encourages what I call the ‘mess of information’, because the dominant cultural trend is an attempt to avoid reality. The mess of information supports bad politics which reinforces the problems. I may write about that mess later., but this is long enough for today…

Disorder is expected

November 20, 2016

Disorder is expected. We all ‘know’ this but it rarely seems that we factor it into our lives, or into the life of the planet – we expect order and smooth transition. We even pretend that our messes are ordered, and condemn the messes of others.

What we label as ‘disorder’ arises because of the complexity and unpredictability which is embedded in the interactive processes of the cosmos. Biology increases the complexity effects. We might say “the more something is alive, the more unpredictable its behaviour will be”.

This again we know, but we still act as if we expect people and events will be predictable.

I would suggest that in the West this arises because of propositions which appear theological, but can be held in a slightly different form by atheists as well:

1) As there is one God, there is only one fixed order, and that is right and good.

2) If God only makes order, then the devil and disobedient or ignorant humans, make the chaos we observe.

Neither of these propositions seems correct. If there is a God, then that God appears to make complexity (complex systems), and that complexity ensures unpredictability in detail. If so, then God is not a dictator, enables free will, almost guarantees that events will escape human control, and welcomes surprise (within limits).

The idea that God makes order and the devil makes chaos reinforces the false dichotomy between order and chaos, and the idea that what we perceive as order is good and what we perceive as chaos is bad. It also implies that if you think you know what the correct order, or correct good, is, then you are entitled to impose that order and goodness upon reality. It ignores the probability that your orders may have unintended consequences because complex reality escapes your understanding and control, when that is normal.

In this view, the normal disorders of the natural world, or the disorderly results of well intentioned actions, are evidence of ungodly threat and hostility to virtue, rather than something which must be taken into account. People in this mindset frequently seem to argue that as the order they want is good, then if their actions do not produce the results they want there must a conspiracy against them, and the order must be imposed with even more thoroughness and the conspirators suppressed or scapegoated.

To exaggerate slightly, for such people, the only safe nature seems to be one that is concreted over, dead, or heavily polluted, marked by fences and neat rows, as that is nature with human order imposed as rigorously as possible.

The contrary view implies that human knowledge is limited and that we cannot live in complete control or complete certainty; unintended consequences and disruptions are normal. This means our actions have to be experimental; that is we perform them and see what happens and then adjust. We have to attend to reality.

In the old view failure is punishment or the active work of evil beings, in the newer view, failure and correcting that failure – as best as we can – is how we learn.

The American Crisis

November 12, 2016

Let us be clear. America is in the crisis it is in today because since the Reagan years the Republican Party has systematically stripped away power from ordinary people and given it to big business. They have done this by pretending that the corporately controlled ‘free market’ always delivers the best results, and that anything which impinges upon big businesses’s liberty to do what it wants is evil.

In the course of this operation they have had to pretend that reality is not real. Hence the attacks on science, and any kind of non pro-corporate knowledge. Hence the pretense that many established businesses are not destroying the world we live in. They have attempted to distract people from the growing realisation that the ‘free market’ system is not delivering its promises, by encouraging hatred of fellow Americans though ‘race pride’ or by curtailing the liberties of ‘minorities’ to act openly. They use anti-abortion and ant-gay rhetoric to win over evangelicals to the worship of Mammon and the destruction of God’s creation. They have systematically opposed any attempts by Democrats to lessen the effects of business dominance, until the Democrats gave up or joined in.

This devotion to corporate power, and ‘free markets’ is why the corporate sector gets so much subsidy, why you pay proportionately more tax than big businesses, why so many jobs went overseas, why illegal immigrants work for crap wages, why inner cities are desolate wastelands, why corporations got bailed out after the financial crisis and what tens of thousands of Americans lost their homes through shonky contracts and pro-business laws.

This is the reality.

Will Trump break with the Republican fantasy? Probably not, as he has benefitted from it.

However, people can remember the origin of the problem and work towards ending the cause.